THE MADRAS LIBRARY ASSOCIATION [Regd.]

58th Annual Report

Introduction

There have been several discussions on `Information access in the 21st century’. There are advocates who claim that the virtual university will replace conventional libraries. Others continue to make a very strong case for the continuation of the "actual university" where the face-to-face interaction takes place. The reality is that a hybrid form – "clicks and mortar" - of library will be the ideal one which can take advantage of the opportunities provided by the IT community and blend that with the conventional type of information provision. The fact that IT will not be able to replace the manual system is substantiated by several specialists eg according to a study, "the best search engine indexes only 19 per cent of the web and much of the information on the web isn't indexed on any search engine at all. This is why all of the search engine companies are making huge investments in employing librarians and professional cataloguers".

Doesn’t this prove that the librarians have a very important role to play in the emerging digital, global community? Their traditional strengths and the newly acquired skills will enable them to make intelligent selection, classification and codification at the front end which alone will help in "saving the time of the searcher" (Fourth Law of Library Science modified).

It is true that many people nowadays access information from their desk, be it home or office, and consequently the library traffic has comparatively come down. But do all the information seekers have the skills and the time to refine and search the required information in the vast ocean? The answer is an emphatic "no". It is strongly believed that the librarian’s job is not and will not be affected by the electronic resources. On the other hand, their role and responsibility will increase even more in the coming years. As long as the technology is not able to replicate human interaction between individuals, the librarians will continue to play the multi-roles – remote facilitators, community partners, and act as the "human face of information technology".

We have been hearing for quite some time about Knowledge Management. Some argue that knowledge cannot be managed; there are others who feel that this is not only possible but is absolutely necessary in a competitive environment. Why knowledge management? One of the disastrous consequences of downsizing in organizations is loss of their `intellectual capital’ i.e. the knowledge gained and developed through seasoned employees is being lost when the employees leave the organization. Companies therefore now feel that there is a need to prevent this erosion by developing a system to acquire, organize and share such internally developed knowledge. It is here the librarians or information managers can play an important role. Over the years the Librarians have become experts in using the technology for accessing and transferring information. Microsoft is a classic example where the staff of the information services department have initiated the `knowledge architecture’ project in order to index, organize and manage the company’s organizational knowledge.

From KM it is now DD – digital divide. Many scholars have commented earlier on the information rich and the information poor. Has technology helped to bridge this gap. The answer is yes and no. While some feel that the Information and Communication Technology [ICT] has the potential to unite and divide the societies, others have a pessimistic view, and may be rightly so, that this will contribute to widening the gap. If India is to catch up with the rest of the world, there is the urgent need to leapfrog. This will help particularly in `connecting the rural India with the `global village’. Here again the information professionals have a greater role to play by closely liaising with the IT professionals.

All these go to prove that there is a bright future for librarians who have to continue to re-skill themselves to face the challenges and also demonstrate their capability.

Although our members participated in various events, as far as MALA activities were concerned, it was a comparatively quiet year. However the newsletter partly compensated by disseminating useful and relevant information to the community.

Period of reporting

The Executive Committee of he MALA presents its 58th annual report and the activities of the Association for the period 1 April 2000 – 31 March 2001.

Executive Committee meetings

The Executive Committee [list of members given in Annexure I] met on the following dates:

General Body meeting

The 57th Annual General Body meeting was held on 24 June 2000. Issues relating to the suggestions and proposals for conducting activities, premises and other topics were discussed.

Accounts

We are happy to place before the General Body the audited accounts and balance sheet for the period 1 April 2000 – 31 March 2001 (Annexure 2). As in the past, MALA was able to generate income through membership subscriptions and from the investments. The year ended with an excess of income over expenditure to the tune of Rs. 9,321-95. The investments with the Unit Trust of India at the end of the financial year stood at Rs. 1,46,000/-.

The Executive Committee of MALA wish to place on record its sincere thanks to Mr D N Varadharajan, Honorary Auditor, for auditing the accounts, and also offering valuable suggestions and guidance.

Membership

During the year 13 new life members, 6 ordinary members and one institutional member were enrolled. The total membership stood at 273 [Life 228, Ordinary 40 and Institutional 5]. All efforts were made to increase the renewal rate, but the outcome continues to be not very encouraging.

MALA newsletter

The Editors were able to bring out the issues on time. However, in spite of repeated requests, contributions were not forthcoming. This is the main channel of communication among members and the editors would be happy if members also could take more interest and contribute news items or information which will be of use to the professionals. Although no formal feedback about the quality of the newsletter was received, some members appreciated the coverage which helped them to keep abreast of what is happening in the information field.

 

Activities

12 August 2000 To commemorate the 108th birth anniversary of Dr S R Ranganathan, MALA organised, a group discussion on `New Technology and information provision – experience of individual libraries’. Prof S Parthasrathy, Hon Director, Institute of Information Studies, Chennai chaired the session and initiated the discussions. About 30 professionals participated and the proceedings were very lively and interesting

Other events and activities in which MALA members participated

12 Mar 2000 Prof P V Indiresan, former Director of Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai delivered a lecture entitled "Communications technology and hope" under the auspices of Ranganathan Centre for Information Studies.

07 Jul 2000 Inauguration of the Millennium Library building of the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai

21 Jul 2000 Seminar against `Book Piracy’ – organised by the Federation of Booksellers and Publishers’ Association of India [FBPAI]and the Booksellers & Publishers’ Association of South India [BAPASI]

08 Aug 2000 `Bridging the digital divide’ – 7th Annual lecture of Ranganathan Centre for Information Studies – delivered by Dr Ashok Khosla, President, Development Alternatives, New Delhi

16 Sep 2000 - `Advances in Information Access and Science Communication’, seminar

17 Sep 2000 organised by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation to honour Dr Eugene Garfield, President/Editor-in-Chief, The Scientist, Philadelphia, Dr Alan Gilchrist, Editor of Journal of Information Science, UK participated. Dr Gilchrist also delivered the 8th annual lecture on `Bigger Haystacks, Different Needles, Less Time [search engines and managing information on the Net] at Informatics India Ltd., Bangalore

13 Nov 2000- `Library and Information profession at the cross-roads’ – 19th IASLIC national

16 Nov 2000 seminar hosted by Madhya Pradesh Council of Science & Technology, Bhopal

17 Nov 2000 Launch of RECON[Retroconversion] Project of the Madras University Library

06 Nov 2000- Seminar on `Changing Role of Librarians in the 21st Century’ organised by Tata

08 Nov 2000 Management Taining Centre, Pune

22 Nov 2000- `Media Convergence and Knowledge Management’ - IT & T 2000 conven-

24 Nov 2000 tion – organised by National Aerospace Laboratory, Bangalore (sponsored by NISSAT)

06 Dec 2001 `Education for the emerging global order’: RCIS Special lecture, delivered by Dr Augustine P Mahiga, Chief of Mission, United Nations High Commission for Refugees

22 Dec 2000- `National Convention on Library and Information Networking [NACLIN 2000]

25 Dec 2000 organised by IIT, Chennai in collaboration with DELNET

27 Dec 2000- The Pennington Public Library, Srivilliputtur, celebrated its 125th anniversary

30 Dec 2000 with a state level seminar on `Role of Private Public Libraries in a changing Information Environment’.

03 Jan 2001- 46th All India Library Conference hosted by Nirma Institute of Management,

06 Jan 2001 Ahmedabad. Theme: `Quality assurance in library and information services: the need of the hour for survival’

06 Jan 2001 to 16 Jan 2001 - 24th Chennai Book Fair

Conclusion

`Change is the only permanent thing,’ – this is apt particularly to the information profession. The hybrid libraries, ably supported by competent and skilled staff will be patronised by the public. The librarians themselves can use the online guides and tutorials for self-development which can be supplemented by the formal training with face-to-face encounters. MALA hopes to organise programmes to help members to achieve this goal.

K VISWANATHAN

Secretary